The 3 Venue Church

I believe that Christ and the Early Church set a great example of how worship should look like for the modern church. Many streams of thought in the post-modern era have focused on music, architecture and church ambiance. Some churches are about music, some focus on doing away with pews in order to facilitate a coffee house atmosphere. Many new churches are built without the traditional symbols of sanctuary and creating auditoriums with stages without many liturgical furnishings. The issue we face in honorable worship is the need to cover three needs: a sense of community and fellowship, a reverent God-centered act of divine reconciliation, and biblical teaching. Most churches try to bring all three under one roof for 90 minutes a week. While the intentions are well and good I am not sure that tweaking one building for one service will fulfill the problem that a fully faceted worship requires. I think that there are three types of church meeting venues in the Early Church and thus, three separate styles at play which combine all the aspects of traditional church and post-modern desire for intimate fellowship but in separate veins without distorting either one. These venues were Temple, Synagogue and House.

Temple.

The Temple was based on the pattern of the Tabernacle revealed to Moses (Ex 25-31). We know even now Christ is ministering in the true heavenly one from which the earth was a copy (Heb 9-10). Essentially the Temple was a place where Sacrifice, Singing, and Symbols took precedence.  This is where the priests and the minstrels lead people into worship of God by directly their songs and offerings unto God. It was about the “Audience of One” — Liturgy (translated as, “The Work of the People” was a way of keeping God’s worship in focus.

The Temple was filled with symbols from the priests clothing specifically made for Temple Worship to the furniture. Everything was done decently and in order with an air of decorum and honor and dignity.

I desire to rekindle the spirit of Temple worship in our modern practice by keeping these three things as the focus of Sunday morning worship. The Sunday Church Service is our new Temple service where we come to bless God firstly (if God chooses to bless us, than “thanks be to God!”) We should enter with an attitude of sacrifice, that we not are coming to worship empty-handed (Ex 34:20). We come with contrite hearts, thankful we can gather because of the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. We come ready to put away our prerogatives and enter into a venue where God’s comfort level is more important than my own. The Temple was a place of blood and fire; of death and life. It was not for the faint of heart. Thank God our worship does not include animal sacrifice, but the sacrifices of our will and our comfort and our stomachs should be evident. Worship in the Temple is not a ballpark or coffee house venue. We aren’t watching a show while munching on pastries. We are entering sacred ground; pastries can wait.

Its also a place of Symbols. Our venue should look different, the Temple did not look like an auditorium or a house, it looked and felt different. We should embrace symbols that tell the tales of the faith. At the church where I serve Christ we have a solid pulpit front and center to remind us that the life-giving Word is central. It’s made of wood, it looks and feels solid and sturdy, just as solid and trustworthy are the words that are read from the Bible upon it. We have table and baptistry to remind us of the sacraments. We use glass and brass for communion because our Jesus is precious and worthy of elegant and honorable materials. Jesus is not cheap, nor was his sacrificial blood, therefore we will not treat the symbol of his death lightly either. Our church is small and simple, we do not have stained-glass or marble, etc. But what little we do have is made with dignity and care and carries symbolism.

Synagogue.

caxton-woodcutThe next venue that Jesus and the Early Church used was the Synagogue. Now this was a place with some symbolism low level and some singing but no sacrifice. The main point of the Synagogue was Prayers and Bible Study. There was the reading of the Scriptures in a yearly cycle to make sure the breadth of Scripture was covered. It was the place where guest rabbis would be asked to share their great theological musings with everyone. Central in the architecture was the “seat of Moses.” It was the special seat reserved for whomever was the religion teacher for the day. Synagogue was a structured learning time with some class participation. It also included a very in depth and structured time of prayer. 

So instead of combining our Sunday Worship with Synagogue worship maybe the church should have a second meeting each week for every believer. Sunday Morning Worship is a hard place to have everyone shout out their prayer requests and the sermon is not really a Q&A session. This can all be provided in the Bible Study setting. Maybe your Bible Study and Prayer Meeting is on the Sunday Scthe Synagogue there were teachers, rabbis, who would lead the discussion and teach from their previous studies. It was a structured learning time with some class participation. Make sure you don’t just come to Sunday worship and miss the personal prayer time and more in-depth teaching for your daily life.

House.

clp275048Lastly is the house. This is where the social and intimacy often happened with Jesus and his disciples and others. We should encourage CARE groups, small groups which can take time to meet you in comfortable surroundings like a home where you can bear one-another’s burdens. This is where Bible study wasn’t as structured and could be tailored for the evening. Where the Bible Study might have quite a few members and cannot get bogged down in the smaller things, a small group is perfect for that. Care groups are Caring places which hold each other Accountable and nurture Relationships with Encouragement.

Where Temple is corporate worship and Synagogue is group learning of the faith the CARE group nurtures the individual on their walk with God.  All three are vital to the faith and in our opinion should be cultivated. There are problems trying to combine them into one setting which is why we suggest every Christian should:

  1. Worship the Lord corporately on Sunday.
  2. Get plugged into some sort of Bible Study and prayer practice and
  3. Be involved in a small CARE group.

There are other professors out there from which I have heard talk of these three venues, and other obscure references but little talk of implementation from the mainstreams of evangelical Christianity. But I believe if we want to see more engrossed Christians that exhorting them to plug themselves into a trinity of worship opportunities on a regular basis will bless them and fulfill the three basic needs of community and fellowship, a reverent God-centered act of divine reconciliation, and biblical teaching.


*for those I might have offended who have changed their furniture to suit one style or emphasize one important aspect of church over another, I mean no disrespect. I know you are trying to encourage a particular worship aspect that is not easily done in the typical worship service. I am merely suggesting a fuller sense of worship would be found in the separation and inclusion. Separate the various parts, but emphasize the necessary inclusion of all three for a well balanced fulfillment of worship.
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